Is nuclear power our energy future — or a dinosaur in a death spiral?

Dave Levitan writes: Nuclear power is dead. Long live nuclear power. Nuclear power is the only way forward. Nuclear power is a red herring. Nuclear power is too dangerous. Nuclear power is the safest power source around. Nuclear is nothing. Nuclear is everything.

It is now generally agreed that the world must rapidly reduce carbon emissions in order to fight off dangerous climate change, but the “how” of that process remains up for debate. And within that debate, nothing seems to produce such starkly opposing viewpoints as nuclear energy. Some experts and advocates argue that carbon-free nuclear power represents the only real hope of keeping the planet’s temperature in check. Others claim that nuclear is risky, unnecessary and far too expensive to make a dent.

The same basic data set — nuclear plants currently in existence, those under construction, the status of new technologies, the history of costs and delays, and a few striking accidents — produces those totally contradictory opinions and predictions. Nuclear power is a Rorschach test: You see what you want to see — a rosy nuclear future or an old-world dinosaur in a slow death spiral — reflecting your own views on the energy present and future. In all likelihood, no one will be proven right or wrong for decades. [Continue reading…]

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